Restaurateurs Prove For-profits, Small Businesses, Startups Eligible for Grants, Too


After two years of hosting pop-up dinners to test the market, James and April Forbes are confident that downtown Pontiac can become a hotspot for foodies. But without a loan and grant, their plans to renovate a 90-year-old building into an “artistic eatery” would not have come to fruition.

“Being in the restaurant industry for (32-years), you see that not many business loans are given to restaurants because it’s so risky,” said James Forbes, who operated the pop-up restaurant in Lafayette Market after regular business hours, where it served as a kitchen incubator for chefs and caterers to rent and offer three- or four-course meals with local ingredients. “And receiving a grant for a restaurant? That’s almost unheard of.”

Thanks to a $25,000 grant from Flagstar bank and a $35,000 small business loan from CEED Lending, the Michigan couple will turn the former Masonic Lodge into a 4,000 square-foot, 120-plus seat restaurant featuring southern-comfort cuisine and live music.

Many for-profit companies are unaware that they are eligible for grants, like the Flagstar project. Small business or startups of all sorts — from wineries to manufacturers — can receive funding; especially if the projects impact the environment or economy. Small businesses can also crowdfund to meet a community need, and give contributors free vouchers for opening night.

Flagstar’s small business development funding program is a part of its five-year $10 million pledge to help vitalize Pontiac. The Troy-based bank partnered with the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council’s CEED Lending initiative, where they committed $500,000 in grants and $200,000 in loans, respectively, towards economic development in the city. The funds will be offered annually to small businesses that apply over the next five years.

MWBEzone is a good starting point for small businesses looking to tap into these types of funding opportunities. The database of small business grants is constantly updated as new funding opportunities become available from the federal government, state agencies, community development organizations and corporate players. And MWBEzone staff is available to help for-profits with any questions they may have in a timely manner.

Small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups seeking funding to bring a project to life are encouraged to follow the steps listed to ensure that they get the most out of the MWBEzone experience.

  1. An ever-expanding database of funding opportunities does no good if you cannot access the information. Head over to to purchase a subscription (one subscription — two databases, MWBEzone for small businesses and GrantWatch for nonprofits) and sign up for a weekly newsletter with the latest grant-related news and a list of relevant funding sources.
  2. After your payment has been processed, start your research! Look for grants for which your business will likely qualify. Double check to ensure that you fit all funding source eligibility requirements.
  3. Decide on how to procure the grant application. Are you writing the proposal? Or if you need to hire a professional grant writer, GrantWriterTeam can help you select from a list of qualified candidates best-suited for your unique application. All grant writers have been screened and are held to the highest professional standards.
  4. If you need any help with navigating the site or the application processes, call our team at 561-249-4129. We are happy to assist you with any questions.


About the Author: Staff Writer for MWBEzone.


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